The Hacker: Brad and I keep the flag flying for the 'special relationship'

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The Independent Online

When it comes to being asked to partner someone, a hacker is usually golf's equivalent of a dance hall wallflower. You only get asked by the desperate.

So when an American professional requested a game with me last weekend it was an undoubted rarity. Actually, it didn't quite happen like that.

Last Saturday we had a better-ball Stableford competition which I don't usually enter because of the aforementioned trouble of finding someone to play with. In any case, I was at The Open when the list went up and, as usual, it was full in no time.

On returning from Turnberry I looked at the list and by some miracle there was a space alongside a man called Jim who I know but hadn't seen for a while.

When I saw the pair Jim was playing with I realised why there had been a gap. Nick and Simon are two of our very best players. Simon had won the club championship for the sixth time the week previously and Nick has won it 14 times.

Less gifted golfers feel a little inhibited in such company but I feel they need to be confronted by golf in the raw occasionally.

On the Friday evening I was called by a friend who runs a luxury hotel on a nearby cliff-top and she explained that they had an American guest who fancied playing golf the following day. She passed me over to Brad and I explained that we had a big competition on but that I would see what I could do.

I asked him his handicap and he replied that he was a professional attached to the TPC in Sawgrass, Florida, one of the most prestigious courses in the States.

He'd come over hoping to qualify for the British Seniors Open at Sunningdale but hadn't been successful.

I rang Andrew our club pro and he said that there was only one gap in the competition and that was with me because Jim had just withdrawn "probably because he saw who he was playing with".

I would have played on my own to mark Nick and Simon's card but the captain said that Brad could partner me but, obviously, we would not be in the comp.

So, instead of sharing the fairways of Sunningdale with the likes of Tom Watson and Greg Norman, Brad Rollinson of the TPC was playing with me in a Glamorganshire four-ball.

As a come-down it was probably a world-record plummet but he seemed to enjoy it. The boys certainly did and they said it was the best they'd seen me play.

Ours is not a long course but tricky and with more trees than we need and Brad was trying shots he wouldn't normally have tried in a serious game. But he hits the ball a mile and was a pleasure to watch.

Our total of 36 points was four short of Nick and Simon's 40 but it was a very enjoyable afternoon in the sunshine.

Then we had a few pints with all the lads but, unfortunately, I forgot to ask him for some tips before he left. So I sent him an email asking if he had any suggestions that would improve my game. I haven't had a reply yet so he's probably still figuring it out.